an ex-evangelical doing a year of living christianly
How to Get to Heaven According to Jesus
by MW Cook
How do you get to heaven? How do you get to God? How do you get mercy and forgiveness? How do you get whatever it is that our hearts are yearning for? Jesus knows. He’s clever about stuff like that.
Be born from above (John 3:3). The classic answer to the age-old question. And it’s still a good one. Be new. Be new from above. Change.
Be spiritually destitute (Matthew 5:3). Not nearly so classic, but it’s still what Jesus said. It’s neat that he doesn’t say the kingdom of heaven is for people who know they are poor in spirit, but for those who simply are. Only the spiritually impoverished are eligible for what Jesus has to offer. Only the broken. Only the screw-ups. Thank God for that.
Be pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Is that all?
Be more righteous than religious people (Matthew 5:20). At first glance this seems tough. I mean, look at all the stuff religious people do to stay righteous! But, when we take a first and second glance, we see that religious does not mean righteous. Religious does not mean good. In fact, I’m tempted to say that religion and righteousness are mutually exclusive.
Do the will of God (Matthew 7:21). And then Jesus went and lived a life that shone with the will of God. Thanks for the good example! I’ll need a hand with trying it out, though.
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, invite the homeless into your house (Matthew 25:31-40). This is one of those sayings where I want to say ‘Hold up, Jesus! That doesn’t sound like justification by faith! What do you mean by that?’ But I’m not really going to ask Jesus that. I think he’d rather me assume that he meant what he said. I know I like it when people assume I mean what I say. I figure I ought to extend the same courtesy to Jesus.
Obey the commandments, sell your stuff, follow Jesus (Matthew 19:16-21). Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. What am I supposed to do with this one? I want to say that you were joking with this guy! I want to say that you were trying to be really subtle and, in your subtlety, didn’t actually mean what you said. But how can I say that? I cannot assume that you would be so subtle as to mean something other that what you said, can I?
Go through Jesus (John 14:6). Jesus is the enabler. He’s not the obstacle in the way. He’s the unlocked door. He’s the moving staircase. He’s how you get there. Yay for that.
There’s more, y’know. Jesus talked about how to be spiritually successful a lot. I wonder if all the different way he talked about it are really just the one way looked at from different points of view. In my circles we focus on rebirth and belief. But what is rebirth if there is no re-lifestyle to prove it? Maybe feeding the poor is a part of rebirth. Maybe shedding the superfluous is the arm of faith.
But do you know what he never said? He never said to invite him into your heart. He never suggested to pray a prayer and sign a card. No matter how you slice it or define it, the Jesus way is a lifestyle, not a conversion. It may look like a conversion. It may start with a conversion. But, following the language Jesus used, it’s something that starts and lasts and grows and moves until we die.